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Tuesday, 19 March, 2002, 14:11 GMT
Tainted Indian air marshal quits
Indian Defence Ministry
The defence ministry ordered Sekhon to resign
A senior Indian Air Force officer has resigned following reports that he sought political favours to advance his career.

A newspaper report alleged last week that Air Marshal Manjit Singh Sekhon had approached an influential politician to seek a senior command posting.

Following the report, Indian Air Chief S Krishnaswamy ordered him to resign but Air Marshal Sekhon refused, arguing that he was not the only officer to seek political favours.

After a brief standoff, the air marshal eventually relented and put in his papers.

"Air Marshal MS Sekhon has resigned and the government has accepted his resignation," a Defence Ministry spokesman said.

Seeking favours

Air Marshal Sekhon, a Sikh, was said to have approached the former chief minister of Punjab state and asked for his help in being appointed as the head of the western air command, one of the country's strike commands.

The politician, Parkash Singh Badal, is also a Sikh and his Akali Dal party is one of the allies in the federal coalition.

The report in an English daily newspaper produced a letter Mr Sekhon had written to Mr Badal in which he said that he could help the people of Punjab "in many ways".

"I am most qualified and experienced to command [western air command] and will be able to tackle Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan as required by the government," the air marshal was quoted as saying.

Told to go

In his letter he went on to say that with Mr Badal's "blessings" he could even rise to head the Indian Air Force.

Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy summoned Mr Sekhon after the report was published and Mr Sekhon was asked to quit the service by Monday.

If he had continued to refuse, he faced the possibility of being dismissed by the Indian president and forfeiting his retirement benefits.

In December 1998, the head of the Indian Navy, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, was dismissed following differences with the defence minister.

See also:

22 Aug 01 | South Asia
India arms bribes 'involved sex'
14 Mar 01 | South Asia
Heads roll in India bribery scandal
14 Mar 01 | South Asia
The Tehelka tapes
09 Mar 01 | South Asia
Hindujas asked for Bofors details
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